I tend to think of this blog as a place for my artistic work – poetry, performances – but in the last few years my academic work has been taking a lot of my time.
Maybe I’ll start to think of the blog as a blend of both?
Maybe I’m not a poet with a day job in academia, or an academic who fits poetry into her spare time, but a writer, who writes across many formats.
If I take that perspective, since I last updated this blog I’ve done a heap of published writing and conferences:
Unfortunately a lot of my academic work isn’t publicly available because academia continues to be damagingly exclusive, locked behind pay walls, and increasingly run for profit. I’m sorry for that, it sucks. For now, non-formatted versions of all my work are available on my acdaemia.edu page.
It’s helpful for me to think of my academic work as part of my identity as a writer, but I’m also feeling the impulse to bring more focus and learning to my poetry work. I’m considering starting a Masters in Creative Writing at the Uni of Canberra, I’ve started talking to Shane Strange and Jen Crawford about it, so I’ll wait and see where those conversations lead me.
Photos by Andrew Sikorski and New River Press
New River Press
The lovely folk at Feminartsy have just published an interview I did with my partner, Nikki Mikhailovich, about growing up as a Rainbow Baby.
“For me I think that growing up with same sex parents is just another kind of normal. Because I think there are many different kinds of upbringings that occur for people in Australia and the world that are different but normal for those people. People come from different backgrounds, cultures, subcultures, ethnicities or religious backgrounds that all have unique aspects to their upbringing. But in the end, they all produce people who are a part of our society.
The hard part about my childhood wasn’t having a different family structure, the difficulties come from people on the outside who have prejudices – that’s what I’d like to see change.”
it was you, so I knew it would be good
Earlier this month I was invited by the lovely folks at TippingPoint to their spring lab. We spent four days doing workshops and having conversations about climate change and art. We cried and hummed a lot and snuck in chocolate.
I was fascinated to meet Asha Bee Abraham, who is another Human Ecologist/participatory artist. I really like that Asha puts Human Ecology at the front of her arts practice, as I don’t really talk much about Human Ecology on this blog or elsewhere in the arts. It’s good to know that she is carrying the fire, and carrying it well.
The lab got me thinking about making creative work again. Since finishing the last season of Eucapocalypts Now in March I’ve taken a step back and let my full time work at ANU take my focus. That was pretty necessary, as I was in the initial stages of an intense participatory modelling process and it required a lot of thought. But that project is pretty steady now.
I was reminded again that climate change is a head fuck. My favourite workshop was one on oral histories presented by Tom Doig. In it I got to have a beautiful conversation with Angharad about our childhood memories of the weather, and our moments of climate change head fucks.
My question of the moment is; how do we go forward making artistic works related to climate change when any one of us could kill ourselves today and the state of the world in 100 years wouldn’t be changed in the slightest? I think that the sustainability discourse is often overly optimistic about our agency and capacity to influence change – we often end up envisaging ‘sustainable’ civilisations that actually require a level of organisation, control and deliberative change that is completely unprecedented in human history. That’s my head fuck right now.
David Stravanger launched his poetry book The Special in Canberra last week, supported by Andrew Galan and myself. The title of the book is also the title of one of David’s old jobs; to be the psychologist that sits with people who have tried to commit suicide and be present when they wake up. It’s full of words that disturb. You can own a copy of The Special by going here.
Julien Hobba wrote a piece on ‘Dangerous Territory’, the section of the You Are Here festival that showed Eucapocalyts Now. In this section of the review he talks about EN:
“Eucapocalypts Now by Ellie Malbon and Aaron Kirby– Westside, 2pm.
One of the Dangerous Territory curators, Morgan Little, is literally waving the You Are Here flag, leading us to a small stand of eucalypts on the outside perimeter of the Westside precinct. There’s unreconstructed shipping containers on one side, Lake Burley Griffin off on the other, and car parks all around. Ellie Malbon and Aaron Kirby, writers and performers, are about to perform to about 20 of us, again on milk crates. They explain: there will be a performance portion and a conversation portion of this show and a series of objects with provocations (in the form of questions) will move through the audience throughout. I already have the first object in my hands; it’s a computer mouse and it asks me what I would do if I couldn’t ‘click on’. I feel immediately grounded in the performance; they have me.
The performance portion is a series of poetic vignettes with minimal, mimetic movement envisaging life as the world goes through environmental apocalypse. A point is made: the change has already begun. The poetry is evocative and dexterously treads that fine line between the curious appeal of unrelated images and the slow accumulation of a whole world. In the new world, in Canberra, there will be bushfires with flames 40 metres high in the air. The poetry brings to life the poignancy and the immediacy of the environment – the performance site. I can see the wall of flame rising over the crest of the hills behind what is now the Aboretum (God bless it); I can imagine the small post-apocalyptic communities being described, eking out their existence by the banks of what was the Murrumbidgee, and the remnants of life among the decimated buildings and landscaped environment around me.
During the conversation portion after the recitation ends, I realise we are going to have the same conversation that was happening among the people living in the fictional post-apocalyptic world about how we want to live. This makes sense, because, after all, the change has already started. We talk about the values and assumptions that shape our existence; we talk about big, fundamental changes to our life. The objects being passed among us – like university degrees – begin to feel redundant. A bee runs into my forehead, a small green spider tries to get into my bag before falling out. The whole question asked by Eucapocalypts Now seems to be: how do we stop dying and start living?”
Jess Oliver wrote a review of Eucapocalypts Now in BMA magazine. Big thanks to Jess, the intro to the review is super poetic itself:
“When the apocalypse hits there will be no tidal waves in Canberra, no cyclones, probably not even any flooding. Instead, there will be raging fire fronts, brown sludge in water pipes and the gradual, slow decline of the world as we know it. When the apocalypse happens and the ground is baked hard from sun and sap, the countryside will be filled with refugees from the cities and the limits of humanity will become strained and frayed. Only one question remains: can you face it?”
“A series of poems – beautifully delivered by both artists – which imagined a localized apocalypse narrative. The stories intertwined and bounced off one another, running the gamut of human experience with tales of hardship and horror, beauty and love, hope and despair. I particularly liked the inclusion of small victories and the more mundane aspects of living in a changing environment: tap water running brown and the eager anticipation of germinating seeds. The inclusion of “place” was also well done and the mention of the shipping containers just near the “old Floriade” really brought the tales close to home.”
“Mount Abora Moth” is the title I gave to a dulcimer-poetry collaboration with Hannah Lord. We made this for the Canberra YWCA for their Lanyon food hub appeal. The title is a small homage to a tree house on mount Majura that our friends built, and mysteriously disappeared without a trace a few years ago.